Movie Review: Tale of Tales – An Enjoyable Movie with a Compelling Cast

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What a strange, but strangely good movie. That’s probably what you’ll think if you get a chance to see Tale of Tales, a genre blending movie with an all-star cast.

Tale of Tales is presented as three fables woven together through common themes of female desire and the ironic consequences of those desires. In the first, Salma Hayek plays a queen unable to bear a child. Crushed, she turns to a court mystic who tells her that the only way to become pregnant is for her husband, the king (John C. Reilly) to slay a giant sea beast and devour its still-beating heart. Next up is Toby Jones as a slightly daffy monarch who raises a tiny flea as a pet, feeding it his own blood until it grows into the size of a hippo. Meanwhile, his beautiful daughter yearns to be wed and finds herself paired off with a ghastly ogre. In the last, Vincent Cassel plays yet another royal whose unquenchable libido leads him to fall in love (or, at least in lust) with a wrinkled crone whose singing voice enchants him.

This is an utterly charming movie with some decent talent holding it together. It has a near whimsical air, despite the fact that its subject matter is decidedly adult. It’s almost the stuff of folklore, and in a way, made me thing of Arabian Nights, which is one of my favorites.

I will say that’s one thing it was missing was the cohesive feel that Arabian Nights had. Despite the fact that the stories had nothing to do with each other, they all tied together. They didn’t do that with these vignettes and as a result, lost something. Sure, they all paired together a broken king with an overbearing woman, but for the most part, they didn’t feel cohesive.

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Some of the scenes go a bit too far with the ‘be careful what you wish for’ and I wish they’d tried to go with a more unique direction in the underlying theme. But overall, I’d call this movie a fair B effort. They went a long way two create a classic, yet colorful set and it looks like what it’s supposed to be; a twisted fairy tale.

One thing I didn’t like was the intro to each tale starting with a funeral. Again, this was an attempt at cohesiveness that really didn’t tie the stories together, so much as they made them force in the intro in often clunky ways. That was a clumsy effort.

Once the stories get going, the magic happens, though not in equal levels. The problem is that at each peak, we’re switched back to a new story, making us forget what’s going on in one vignette and get drawn in to another.

But for the most part, it’s still an enjoyable movie with a compelling cast. Of course, this is not for kids, as there’s more than a few lewd and outright upsetting moments. But for adults, it has a quirky charm that you’re not going to find in standard movie fare.

WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars

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Movie Review: The Finest Hours – You Stomach Will Hurt With Tension Even Though You know The Ending

What’s with all these ‘disaster at sea’ movies coming out lately? Is there some kind of nautical trend that I’m not aware of? I have to admit, I’m not a big ‘sea adventure’ fan unless the movie involves pirates. But despite a significant lack of pirates, The Finest Hours did ok in my book.

The Finest Hours stars Chris Pine as Bernie Webber, one of the members of the Coast Guard who attempts a rescue of a tanker in the middle of a nor’easter. The story is based on a true story that occurred off the coast of Cape Cod in the 1950s.

It’s actually a pretty well researched subject, with everything that happened a matter of public record. It’s about a true-life US Coast Guard rescue mission off Cape Cod in the winter of 1952, when an oil tanker sheared in two and a small crew from the Chatham station went searching for survivors in a tempest that came close to claiming their lives.

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Director Craig Gillespie and his screenwriters, Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson did an excellent job of capturing the time period and the atmosphere. It’s a stiffer, dreary, almost clinical approach to the events, which isn’t terrible in and of itself. They also gave the characters some realistic backstories, making the focus of this movie the rescue and not the rescuers.

The plotline is kind of confusing but the makers did make an effort to simplify it for audiences. The characters were pretty well developed with Kasey Affleck being the most compelling in my book. It’s a thrilling movie with some excellent, terrifying CGI. It’s a movie that will make your stomach hurt with tension, even though you know how it ends.

I like the way the screenwriters respected the facts and didn’t try to go off subject on us. It appears that there’s less embellishment and more simple artistic license making this movie better.

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As far as the actors go, while the roles were a bit clichéd, they kind of help keep things straight. This movie again, isn’t about the characters. The hero is played by Chris Pine, as one of those enthusiastic new recruits types with a super sweet fiancé, Miriam (Holly Grainger). Their chemistry was good and Pine played his part true to form. But to me, it’s Casey Affleck that really steals the show. He plays one of the most compelling characters, the near-mute outcast of the crew and he does it with such depth, you forget that a dude that good looking would never be an outcast. Seriously, Casey Affleck made me forget he was hot.

While it’s not my genre, I can absolutely respect the movie for what it was. While sometimes a bit convoluted in the details, it’s still a good retelling of some real life events. It’s compelling and suspenseful, though it does drag in a few places. They put together a movie with great special effects, and for that alone should not be missed. This is one that’s worth the watch, even if you prefer your sea movies with pirates.

Although pirates would have made it better, just saying.

WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars

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Movie Review: The 33 – A Grueling Watch, But In a Good Way

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Ok, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Antonio Banderas in a serious movie, not one that immediately comes to mind. But here’s something amazing.

Dude can act.

The 33 is the story of the 33 mine workers trapped 200 stories below the surface in a Chilean mine cave in during 2010. The men were down there for 69 torturous days. While an exciting premise, this is more of a movie about relationships than it is about the rescue effort.

I will admit it’s a grueling watch, but in a good way. Banderas brought a level this character that I didn’t even know he was capable of. I think the acting was quite well done in this movie, and Banderas really led the way with a strong performance.

One major problem I have with this is the score. While written by the late, great James Horner who performed amazing scores like the one for Titanic, this one was just too doggone overpowering for the movie. This isn’t a beautiful movie. It’s not about the visual effects of the scenery and I felt the score came on too strongly and really didn’t match the story.

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Also, despite the fact that the story is about the Chilean mine workers, it also brings in their families, showing their wives praying and fighting with politicians for their freedom. While the women in this film put forth a good effort, I feel as though they cut back to them a bit too much, when they really could have just gone with the stronger story going on underground.

Another thing that threw me…this was supposed to happen in Chile, right? Then why are there so many white people there? While again. the acting was good, I really felt they went a bit to heavy handed on the white actors getting crammed into the script.

While this is a strong effort, I felt like three narrative lines were two too many. I think the film should have centrally focused on the miners and allowed those additional stories to take more of a back seat. The three different narratives become unwieldy and make a relatively simple, clean plot, seem messy.

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Despite that, this movie does deliver on its message of hope. I feel that it really did capture the essence of the original mine collapse story and did credit to their source material.

It’s a very good effort and worth the watch for the acting alone, though I strongly recommend bringing some ear plugs to the over the top score. I’m pretty sure not every spot in Chile has someone playing the Spanish guitar, especially not 200 feet below the surface. In that, this was a case where silence would have spoken louder and been far more dramatic.

This is a more cerebral movie than you’d expect. Despite the fact that the actions were dramatic, the movie isn’t so much about the drama as it is the relationships forged through the drama. It’s a strong effort and one of Antonio Banderas’ best performance.
WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars

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Movie Review: Legend (2015) – A Stylish Gangster Movie with Tom Hardy Doing Some Great Acting

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In Legend, Tom Hardy gets a second chance to make a first impression on audiences. While he was the title character in the recent blockbuster Mad Max, Charlize Theron kind of stole the show. This time around, he’s back with a vengeance, playing not one, but two main characters.

Legend is based on Ronnie and Reggie Kray, twin crime lords running London’s underworld in the early 60s. Ronnie is glasses wearing, paunchy and flamboyantly gay, along with being mentally unstable. On the flip, Reggie is the level headed, business minded twin in a troubled marriage. The movie starts off with them getting a blank check to indulge in criminal enterprises, after they blackmail a high powered member of parliament, who gets busted in a gay orgy. Sounds cool, right?

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Yeah, it all kind of falls apart after that. The rest of the movie unfolds pretty much the way you’d expect from your standard gangster flick.

Tom Hardy was amazing in this, playing twin brothers in a way that makes them characters in and of themselves. You genuinely do forget these twins are being played by the same person, which is an extraordinary feat both from Hardy, and from the people in makeup and wardrobe.

The problems here come from the actual storytelling itself, which is a bit thin. Aside from the unique premise of twin brothers, it’s a bit paint by numbers as fast as crime movies go, with two brothers doing horrible things, while a frustrated police department fights to stop them.

Off screen narration from Emily Browning seems to be done with shades of Goodfella’s, but instead, turns into cringe worthy clichés that are used to plug up holes in the screenplay. The storyline itself is really nothing special, with the twins going through the standard clichés of being hometown heroes and criminal celebrities, while at the same time, being monsters behind closed doors.

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It’s a shame, because the real life story of the Kray twins left a lot of room to have fun. It was a clever movie that could have taken a more humorous twist in order to differentiate itself from the masses of other gangster movies out there. Instead, it takes a unique plot and twists it right into the mundane.

All in all, it’s a decent watch. The acting is fantastic, as are the costumes for the ‘duo’. It’s a stylish gangster movie that is plenty satisfying. The problem is, it’s satisfying in a way that fast food is satisfying. Sure, it’s enjoyable, sometimes you even crave it, but it’s nothing special.

This is a standard gangster movie that could have been more. Instead, they stuck with the formulaic plotline, despite having lots of real life material to choose from. I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m just saying it could have been better.

I will say it’s worth the watch, if you get a chance to see it. It’s not one of those British based movies where the accents are indecipherable, so if that usually distracts you, it won’t here. Instead, it’s a reliably exciting gangster flick, with some incredible acting by Tom Hardy. Watching him seamlessly play both characters easily makes this movie worth seeing.

WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars

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Movie Review: Straight Outta Compton – Easy to See Why This Movie Reached Both Critical and Commercial Success

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One thing that’s rare in the movie world is seeing a film that is both a critical success and a commercial success. While I expected Straight Outta Compton to be a critical success, I hardly expected it to do as well as it did commercially, considering the subject matter. It seemed like a movie with a single demographic. But honestly, once you see it, you realize it’s one of those movies that transcends demographics and makes it so everyone can find a parallel in their own lives to the problems of someone who isn’t like them at all. Yes, even a middle aged white girl, who spent the 80s in the mountains of New Hampshire, can identify with the main characters in this storyline.

But it’s not just a story. It’s a film based on the events that led to led to one of the most potent rags to riches stories in history. It’s the making of the group NWA, produced by the now billionaire group themselves. We see the stories of Andre Young (a.k.a. Dr. Dre), O’Shea Jackson (a.k.a. Ice Cube), and Eazy-E (Eric Wright) through their eyes. It’s an unflinching and often introspective look at a generation that authority tried to silence, but couldn’t.

One thing I have to say when it comes to movies that are centered around inner city main characters, is that they have a tendency to go for the cliché. We see heartless thugs played as new school cowboys and white cops that feel like they’re hiding KKK robes under their uniforms. These films tend to be black and white, but the world isn’t black and white.

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And neither is this film. They portrayed themselves honestly, as men who had to fight for respect in one of California’s most dangerous neighborhoods. From the beginning, it’s easy to see how every day is a struggle to maintain power and dignity. Eazy-E appears on the scene during a drug deal gone bad, moments before a LAPD tank rolls into a drug den. Dre gets pistol whipped in the face after getting into a tussle with a Crenshaw Mafia soldier on the bus and Ice Cube is a man ready to fight in the blink of an eye, even over something as small as getting shortchanged. They don’t play themselves off as martyrs. Instead, they make you understand why they made the decisions they did, even if you don’t agree with them.

Jerry Heller (Paul Giammatti), who is often seen as responsible for the dissolution of NWA, is played not as a character, but as a person. He’s one part villain, and one part guardian angel, both standing up for the group he represents and trying to drive them apart at the same time. They didn’t make Heller the easy villain. Instead, they gave him true motivation and a true duplicitous nature without making him a one dimensional villain who only wanted to break up the group.

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This is an extremely well done film that uses gritty realism to get its point across and gives us a deeper, more dimensional look at NWA’s rise to fame and subsequent breakup. Even if you’re not a fan of the music genre, Straight Outta Compton is straight up worth the watch.

WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars

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Movie Review: Paper Town (2015) – Reminds Me Of An 80’s Teens Flick….But Not Quite.


This is a week for bizarre movies, but on the upside, at least it was the week for one good bizarre movie. Paper Town comes from the bestselling novelist John Green, who wrote the blockbusting novel “The Fault in Our Stars”.

The movie focuses on two central characters, Quentin and Margo. Quentin is the sweet boy next door, while Margo is the trouble maker with a trunk full of baggage. One night, she wakes Quinton up to take him on a night fueled by revenge. The night is life changing, but the next morning when Quinton goes to talk about it, Margo is gone. What follows is a bit of a teen Nancy Drew situation where Quinten recruits his friends to help find her.

First of all, the dialog is pretty excellent. Green seems to have a gift for writing dialog, and manages to make it quick witted, without making it come off as too adult. This was something they were easily able to carry into the movie. As a result, the kids actually come across as kids; albeit quick witted ones.

In a stretch, I’d say this movie reminds me a bit of the movies of the 80s, by the late great John Hughes. The movie follows the standard teen comedy tropes, with social hierarchies and a bit of angst. It’s a pretty well done effort that I enjoyed.

That being said, I didn’t feel like the target audience. I feel like I would have enjoyed this a bit more if I was actually in my teens. Something about the way this movie is written makes me feel kind of old. I didn’t think it was quite as good as the Fault in Our Stars, but I still found it watchable.


My big problem is Margo’s character. She was so paper thin and clichéd, it was hard to care what happened to her. She’s kind of your standard pretty, popular girl with a wild streak and despite her problems, she’s not very interesting. Of course, as the movie comes from Quinten’s perspective, it’s entirely possible that this was done intentionally to see Margo through Quintin’s eyes. If it was a stylistic choice, I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it.

It also kind of fell apart at the end. Instead of climaxing, we’re greeted to a long winded sermon about growing up. I find a lot of directors in teen movies do this. Instead of allowing people to glean the meaning from what they see, they feel the need to summarize their main point at the end in case anyone missed it.


Paper Town is a decent, but middle of the road effort when it comes to teen comedy. It’s not slapstick funny. It’s funnier in the way occasional parts of “The Fault in Our Stars” was funny. As far as coming of age movies go, this one is great for a teen audience, but adults might find it drags a little. Still, it’s worth the watch if you have a teenager in the house.

WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars

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Movie Review: Ant-Man – It’s Stupid In The Right Way

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Ant-Man is the newest super hero release with a comedic twist, and it’s pleasing critics and audiences alike. This snarky sci-fi flick, with an unlikely hero, it’s one to watch this summer. Here’s why.

Our hero is Scott, a thief with a master’s in engineering. When he runs into a reclusive scientist with a special suit, he’s more than happy to try it on. With the push of a button, he’s the size of a dime. What follows is an interesting scene involving Scott getting sucked into vacuums and such. Realizing his new power, Scott does the whole becoming a super hero thing and even finds an arch nemesis. He’s a dude that can turn into a yellow jacket.

While it sounds stupid, it’s stupid in the right way. It’s stupid in the way that Shaun of the Dead was stupid. It’s also hilarious, interesting and even kind of visually stunning. Of course, a lot of the visuals are recycled. Take the Ant-Man suit for example. It’s pretty much an Iron Man Suit. They didn’t even change the color scheme that much.

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However, for a movie that does such a good job on using the standard super hero tropes, with some self-aware tongue in cheek humor, recycled visuals can be ok. Especially with such a unique storyline. Edgar Wight is credited with some of the story line creation, which explains the similar feel to movies like “Shaun of the Dead”.

Paul Rudd was a fantastic choice for the lead. He’s unheroic enough to give the character a certain lack of grace and gritty realness, but he also has awesome comedic timing, which this movie relied on. The great thing about the movie is that the same thing that makes Ant-Man heroic is what makes him vulnerable. The danger of being squashed while in insect form would have been hard to pull off if not for Rudd’s performance.

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It’s a fresh take for a summer filled with big budget blockbuster action movies. Not that it isn’t well done. It’s just a bit lower key and a more slapstick and funny than other movies in the sci-fi genre. The movie knows how to laugh at itself, while keeping viewers entertained.

I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with the main female character Hope (Evangeline Lilly). In a way I was kind of expecting her to emerge as some sort of femme fatale, but instead, her character stays pretty flat and sees no growth at all. So in that, I was disappointed. The two father-daughter stories were sweet, but not overtly so, and they managed to put a bit emotion into the script, in a way that doesn’t feel too over the top for this movie.

But all in all, I have to say Ant-Man was pretty well done and very enjoyable. It was a bit long in the run time, nearly 2 hours, but at least they used their time wisely. If you’re looking for a great action movie, with some good humor, then Ant Man could be one to watch this summer.

WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars

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Movie Review: Spy (2015) – McCarthy Is No Longer A Sidekick. She’s A Leading Lady In Her Own Right.

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There is something so refreshing about Melissa McCarthy and the characters she plays. She doesn’t rely on sex appeal, but she doesn’t stay in the background either. She’s not an object of pity. She’s just a funny lady with some great comedic timing. That’s why is decided to check out Spy.

In it, we meet Susan Cooper (McCarthy) a desk bound CIA agent who spends most of her time shut up in the agency’s basement, crushing on the debonair Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Then, when her unrequited crush is taken by the evil Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), Cooper is sent into the field to retrieve him. Once Boyanov and Cooper meet, that’s where the film really gets going. These two had some amazing chemistry that really made the film shine.

The movie is a bit similar to the first movie that rocketed McCarthy into the limelight, The Heat. This one is something more, because we don’t have to deal with Sandra Bullock’s nails on a chalkboard approach to comedy. There’s just something about Bullock that’s inherently unlikeable and I’ve always found her less than stellar in comedic performances.

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 Teaming McCarthy with Byrne was the best choice. These two have strong chemistry and work together well, neither overshadowing the other. Byrne’s snark and McCarthy’s clueless comebacks are worth a laugh every single time.

Of course, we see some character growth in this film. McCarthy’s character goes from wearing crochet tops and using “Jesus Christmas” as her favorite swear word, to wearing leather and swearing like a trucker.

One thing that confused me about this film. Why are there so many British people in the CIA? This includes one character the film could have done without, Nancy (Miranda Hart). She’s sent to be Susan’s sidekick, but really just manages to be incredibly irritating. The main characters are already the comedic relief in this story. There was no need to add more.

The ending ties up loose ends nicely, while leaving plenty of room for a sequel. They don’t kill off anyone important, so most of the characters will come back to play. While I was initially dreading them making more Heat movies, I have to say, I’d be happy to watch a sequel of Spy. There’s just something about McCarthy and America’s attitude towards her that’s grown in that time. McCarthy is no longer a sidekick. She’s a leading lady in her own right.

Though I do hope that she doesn’t get stuck playing one kind of character all the time. She has range and talent, and it would be a shame if she was turned into the chubby funny girl permanently. While I do enjoy a story about a bumbling cop, there’s only so many anyone can make without people getting sick of them.

Just ask Paul Blart.

Spy is an enjoyable effort that will keep audience members laughing. There’s the occasional spy movie cliché, but for the most part, the gags are gags that haven’t been done before. This is easily worth the watch and worth the sequel.
WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars

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Movie Review: Tomorrowland (2015) – Intelligent Direction And Writing; At least In The First Half


Tomorrowland is Disney’s latest foray into the sci-fi market. While ambitious and visually stunning, a Swiss cheese plot occasionally makes it fall apart.

It takes a while to get started. Actually, it took me about the first 30 minutes to figure out what was going on. We meet an inventive boy at the World’s Fair in 1964. That boy grows up to be Frank Walker (George Clooney), a disillusioned man who sees how bleak the future really is. His foil is Casey (Britt Robertson) a girl wearing rose colored glasses who refuses to see the future as bleak as Frank does. Then, they learn of an alternate reality, Tomorrowland, which is a utopia for scientists and inventors. According to a droid named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) they’re the only ones who can save it.



For the first part of the movie, the mystery is intriguing, the visuals stunning and the characters likeable. Clooney slides into his roll pretty effortlessly, and Robertson is a believable optimist. Of course, for either lead, these are not difficult rolls. These are characters that these guys have both played before.

There are some minor dialog issues, like when they try a bit too hard to explain certain scientific advances like time travel. They seemed almost desperate to make the audience buy into their science. When it comes to that, it was a bit annoying. I don’t need to see how the sausage is made to eat it. At one point, Frank even says to a curious Casey;

“Do I have to explain everything? Can’t you just be amazed and move on?”

I wish the writers had taken Frank’s advice in that. But despite that blip, the vast majority of the movie is engaging and fun.

Then, for some reason, in the final 15 minute, it all just falls apart completely. It’s as if they ran out of ideas, or realized time was running short and they needed to wrap the story up in a hurry. The rushed ending kind of ruined the whole thing for me. It’s very unfortunate that the same intelligent direction and writing put into the first half of the movie didn’t carry out until the end.


When it comes to Disney. I tend to have high standards. Would I have been more forgiving if this had been put out by any other company? Probably. But if Disney is going to use a movie to advertise their name, it needs to be perfect.

Regardless, it’s a pleasant PG flick with an optimistic outlook. There are plenty of references to Disneyworld in it as well. Heck, the “It’s a small world ride’ is actually a portal to the future.

I knew that thing had to be good for something.

It’s a good effort, but for that ending. But even with a subpar finish, it’s a great movie that’s fun for parents and for kids. It will bring back shades of nostalgia for older viewers and keep younger viewers entertained as well.

WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars

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Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 2 – Almost As Fun As The First

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I’ve never been a big one for musicals. I’m one of the few people that used to fast forward through all of the singing parts in Glee. One thing I like about Pitch Perfect is that despite the fact that it’s about music, it isn’t too heavy on the music. The characters aren’t randomly bursting into song every three minutes, which made this premise tolerable for me. But it’s really the humor that sells it. While I will say the story is there, it’s a bit been there done that.

In this installment, we are again introduced to a perky acapella singing group, after they suffer an embarrassing mishap onstage. They then fight to get into an international acapella competition to redeem themselves and their group. To be honest, this premise was almost exactly the same as the first. If you really need to know it, just go watch Pitch Perfect. The only thing that changed is the venue.

Luckily, the snarky humor was there. It still has the breezy humor of the first, and is a movie that makes you fall in love with it, as it makes fun of itself. The actors brought the same energy they had and when it comes to laughs and dialog, it didn’t fall flat.

One area where it did fail was the failure to use Kendric. While the first movie really centered on her, she’s more of an afterthought in this one. That’s a shame, because I like my heroines with a bit of edge. She’s still edgy in this one, but we just don’t see as much of her.

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This time around, it’s Rebel Wilson who takes center stage. That’s a bit of a problem, as Wilson is and always has been a one note character. She had charm and great comic shtick, but a little of her goes a long way and focusing the film around her felt kind of exhausting. I feel like if they’d toned her down a bit, it would have been more tolerable.

The music is a bit overproduced for something that’s supposed to be acapella. It’s almost too perfect and it causes a bit of a disconnect between the story and the sound. The scenes with the other groups in the international competition were amusing, but they went a bit too far with the stereotypes and turned every other country into a weird cliché.

There are a bit too many storylines going on as well. They really didn’t need to add as much as they did. There were lots of side plots about Beca’s secret internship that really didn’t need to be there. I also wasn’t 100% sure why she was hiding it. I mean, she’s a senior in college. Of course she’s going to secure her future, right? They could have removed that part entirely and the movie wouldn’t have suffered for it. It also would have felt a bit cleaner.

I will say it was worth the watch. It just wasn’t quite as good at the first go-around.

WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars


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